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Mr Chavez made the visit, the purpose of which was not announced, to Cuba on his way home from a summit with the presidents of Colombia and Ecuador.

Mr Chavez was greeted on Friday night by President Raul Castro, the Communist Party newspaper Granma said.

Cuba and Venezuela are key political and economic allies.

Mr Chavez was accompanied by Yolanda Pulecio, the mother of Ingrid Betancourt, the former Colombian presidential candidate who is the highest-profile hostage held by Colombia's Farc rebel group.

The purpose of the visit has not been announced, but both governments have regularly been involved as mediators in negotiations over hostages held by Colombian left-wing groups.

It is not clear whether Mr Chavez will meet Fidel Castro, whom he regards as a close friend.

Mr Chavez made his visit to Cuba on his way home from a summit in the Dominican Republic, where he and the presidents of Colombia and Ecuador resolved the recent crisis over Colombia's anti-Farc operation inside Ecuador.


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